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Emerging Startup

Engineered Microbe Drug-Delivery Platform

Genetic design + synthetic biology tools = rapid, robust bacterial engineering

Emerging startup: George Church's lab has developed a symbiotic drug-delivery platform. (Image courtesy of Anik Debnath/Tenza.)

Therapeutic proteins hold promise for medicine but must currently be administered by injection, leading to low tissue bioavailability and off-target side effects. George Church's lab, with support from the Blavatnik Biomedical Accelerator, has developed a symbiotic drug-delivery platform to engineer lactic acid bacteria. Living bacteria from the human microbiome are reprogrammed to produce and deliver therapeutic proteins using a proprietary, machine learning-powered genetic bioengineering platform. Such microbes offer a more targeted alternative to conventional drug delivery by restricting exposure to the target tissues naturally inhabited by the symbiotic microbe, thereby increasing therapeutic efficacy while reducing systemic side effects. Tenza, a startup emerging from the Church Lab, aims to commercialize this platform, pursuing in vivo evaluation of two engineered organisms adapted to the gastrointestinal tract and female genital tract that deliver anti-inflammatory and anti-viral therapeutics for IBD therapy and HIV prevention, respectively.